Mental health and online hate on agenda as community leaders meet PM
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Mental health and online hate on agenda as community leaders meet PM

Prime Minister pays tribute to the contribution of British Jews at roundtable meeting organised by the Jewish Leadership Council

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

JLC led delegation with Prime Minister Theresa May
JLC led delegation with Prime Minister Theresa May

Theresa May was told of new plans to tackle mental illness in Jewish schools and urged to introduce new legislation to fight online hate, during her annual meeting with community leaders.

The prime minister hosted a delegation led by the Jewish Leadership Council’s Jonathan Goldstein for talks at Downing Street that covered issues from Brexit and teaching same-sex relationships to Hezbollah – with leaders reiterating calls for the terror group to be fully proscribed.

The eight-strong delegation – the majority of whom were women following controversy in the past about male-dominated groups visiting the PM – thanked May for the government’s support in the wake of the Pittsburgh atrocity, including the home secretary’s attendance at a hastily-organised vigil.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “I was pleased to meet with the Jewish Leadership Council to discuss the challenges their communities face, particularly as we react to the shocking attack in Pittsburgh.

“Today’s meeting was an opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous contribution British Jews make to this country, to praise the community for its resilience and optimism, and to reaffirm my commitment to stamping out antisemitism in this country.”

As chair of the Community Security Trust, Gerald Ronson told the PM he had instructed the organisation to make working with other communities to counter threats from the far right and far left a priority. The CST and Tell Mama, which monitors anti-Muslim hate, already have close relations. He also highlighted how social media exacerbates the challenge and the need to do more to hold those who spread hate online to account.

Sarah Anticoni, chair of Partnership for Jewish Schools, described the three key challenges facing Jewish schools as lack of funding, staff retention and pupils’ mental health. Following the work a JLC-convened taskforce, she revealed that ‘wellbeing practitioners’ will for the first time be employed in five schools in London and Manchester to develop a ‘whole school’ approach to encouraging positive mental health involving parents, staff and carers. It is hoped the pilot scheme will then be rolled out to other schools in the community and beyond.

On the same subject, new UJS chair Hannah Rose insisted provision on campus was inadequate and pointed to the need for mental health practitioners to have training around cultural diversity, highlighting issues that could impact on mental health including antisemitism. She also sought reassurance that new guidelines on freedom of speech on campus will not enable those who incite hate to be given a platform,

May was thanked for her support for plans for a new Holocaust memorial in Westminster and for the Balfour centenary events a year ago by Goldstein, chair of the JLC. He also urged the Tory leader to visit Israel after Britain leaves the European Union.

Marie Van der Zyl, attending her first such meeting as Board of Deputies president, highlighted a BOD—JLC Brexit paper covering the possible impacts on kosher meat and trade with Israel. In the In the wake of on the controversy surrounding Conservative MEP’s failure to support disciplinary moves against the government of Viktor Orban, she acknowledged that foreign policy requires ministers to engage with the world as it is rather than how they’d like it to be – but stressed the importance of treading cautiously.

Mark Morris attended as chair of Work Avenue but also raised issues of concern to the ultra-Orthodox community. He spoke about the chief rabbi’s anti-bullying guide on LGBT issues for schools, insisting there were no issue with regards to respect and tolerance in the community’s school’s.

However, he raised concerns about a “contradiction” in the Equality Act which holds both faith and same sex relationships as protected characteristics. There was a question mark, he told the PM, about the point at which one trumps the other when it comes to teaching same sex relationships, which some faiths remain uncomfortable with.

Both Morris and Chai’s Louise Hager – representing two of the smaller organisations in the JLC dealing with societal issues – told May how they stood ready to help other communities by sharing best practise. The meeting was coordinated by the JLC’s head of public affairs Claudia Mendoza who also attending the talks.

Listen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views Podcast, focusing on Pittsburgh:

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